Stuff POC do: restrain ourselves

When I checked Stuff White People Do and saw a post originally titled, “Stuff White People Do: Laugh at Asian English”, I felt racism fatigue, and responded with a half-hearted and uninspired, “I am offended at your post,” followed with a description. I fully expected to be accused of looking for racism again by some commenter in a comment that closely followed mine, which has become almost a tradition at Stuff White People Do. (Sometimes this commenter is Macon D himself.)

Unsurprisingly, I was accused of “looking for something to pounce on Macon for” by a commenter named “haley” half an hour later. Surprisingly, however, the normally-defensive Macon D took my complaint seriously and tried to think of alternative ways of phrasing the title. In the end, Macon D actually took my suggestion seriously and changed the post’s title to “Stuff White People Do: Laugh at “Engrish”.”*

I’m not entirely sure what happened, but perhaps my uncharacteristic comment, which left me vulnerable to the accusation of oversensitivity, didn’t trigger a defensive reaction on the part of Macon D.

Normally, I almost never criticize racism with “I am offended” or “I take offense”, because when racism is framed as “something that offends people”, then accusations of racism are portrayed as “political correctness” catering to the hypersensitivities of minorities who supposedly always force the majority to accommodate them. Even when I almost never use the terms “offense”, “offended”, or “offensive”, people have told me that I was oversensitive about racism, that I need to grow up, that I cannot always break down and cry every time someone is not sensitive to my feelings.

The people who say these things appear to think that racism occurs rarely, and that when a non-white person complains about allegedly “trivial” instances of racism, it means that she is like a young child who hasn’t yet learned that not everyone in the world is obligated to be nice to her. In reality, however, I have experienced racial microaggressions since childhood, and I am well aware that the world is not a safe space for people of colour with respect to race. I point out racism not because I’m noticing it for the first time, but because I want to bring it to the attention of others who have grown up shielded from the daily realities that people of colour have to endure. I point out racism because I want to point out injustice, not because I am some selfish oversensitive child who wants the world to revolve around me and my feelings.

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Canadians tolerate white racism against blacks, even in Toronto.

Reactions to racism not as strong as we think, study finds:

While most people believe they would not tolerate a racist act, a new study from Canadian and U.S. researchers found test subjects in an experiment reacted with indifference when exposed to one.

Researchers in Toronto recruited 120 non-black York University students for what they said was a psychology study. Half of the students were each put in a room with two actors — one white and one black — posing as other participants.

The black actor then left the room to retrieve a cellphone, lightly bumping the other actor on the way out. The white actor then responded in one of three ways, saying nothing, saying the phrase “I hate when black people do that” or uttering an offensive racial slur.

When the black actor returned, study participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire rating their emotional mood and then were asked to choose a partner for what they thought was the actual test.

The researchers found that in cases where the white actor made a racist comment, participants did not speak out, did not report any emotional distress and actually chose the white actor as a partner more often than the black actor.

These results stood in stark contrast to a second group of respondents who were asked who they would choose as a partner after having the situation described to them. These respondents overwhelmingly chose not to work with the white actor when a racist statement was uttered.

(Emphasis mine. Note that the second group is a randomly-separated control group, which is why the comparison is valid.)

Canadians are generally more liberal than Americans. Torontonians are generally more left-wing than the average Canadian. University students are generally more left-wing than people who are not university students. However, these university students from Toronto, Canada prefer to partner up with a white person after she/he made a racist remark.

Of course, this particular demographic is not more prone to tolerating racism than other groups. However, Canada is not a anti-racist sanctuary like many Canadians like to believe, and neither is Toronto. Racism is still a problem in Toronto, Canada, and merely stating that you are against racism is not enough.

White people think that people of colour have more culture.

whiteculture5White liberals* in North America often say things like, “White people have no culture.” For the overwhelming majority of white liberals, to be white is to be boring. Some white people even claim that they are “jealous” of people who are not white, as if non-white people have “culture” that white people do not, due to the sole fact they have a higher concentration of melanin in their skin, eyes, or hair.

Of course, the very definition of culture necessitates that white people have culture**. Here is a definition of culture from Wikipedia:

Culture can be defined as all the ways of life including arts, beliefs and institutions of a population that are passed down from generation to generation. Culture has been called “the way of life for an entire society.” As such, it includes codes of manners, dress, language, religion, rituals, games, norms of behavior such as law and morality, and systems of belief as well as the art.

Cultural anthropologists most commonly use the term “culture” to refer to the universal human capacity and activities to classify, codify and communicate their experiences materially and symbolically.

Obviously, white people have culture. What is less obvious is why most white liberals think that they have no culture, and why most white liberals think that anybody who is non-white has culture that white people do not, even if these non-white people are living in the same society as the whites.

Most white liberals think that they have no culture, because most white people’s subconscious and vernacular definition of “culture” is what they consider foreign culture. Because most white people believe that non-white people are foreign, they assume that non-white people must therefore have foreign culture, which they refer to as just “culture”.

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White people like writing as ‘experts’ on non-white cultures.

Stuff White People Like’s #20 Being an expert on YOUR culture is about pretentious white liberals and leftists who consider themselves “experts” on non-white cultures. Unfortunately, whites who self-identify as “antiracist” may still write as “experts” on non-white cultures, and believe that such writings are “antiracist”. At least one white antiracist believes that he has direct access to the mental states of non-white people, as well as unique insights about non-white cultures.

How psychologists accessed the thoughts of others

One problem within the history of psychology has been the problem of how a psychologist can access the mental processes of other individuals. Originally, psychologists used introspection, i.e., they asked subjects to self-report their own mental processes. However, during the behavioral revolution in psychology, introspection as a method of psychological investigation was considered unreliable and unscientific.* During the behavioral revolution in psychology, mainstream psychologists studied only human behaviour and considered the concept of “mental processes” as extraneous and irrelevant. After the behavioral revolution in psychology was the cognitive revolution, however, and now psychologists are interested in mental processes again, in addition to behaviour. However, psychologists use more advanced experimental methods to investigate mental processes, and they generally consider introspection unreliable as “direct access” to human thought.

Basically, accessing the thoughts of another individual, and drawing conclusions about what she is thinking and how she thinks, is a non-trivial task. Although it is already ignorant for a person to make psychological observations about another person without any background in psychology, it is both profoundly ignorant and oppressive for a person to make psychological observations about an entire race of people.

When this person is white, and this white person is making psychological observations about non-white people in general, it an instance of racism. Such a situation would be a continuation of the white-supremacist assumption that white people are more objective than non-white people, and know better about non-white people than non-white people know about themselves. That is, under this white-supremacist framework, the white person’s assessment of the non-white person’s mind is given higher priority and more validity than the non-white person’s assessment of her own mind or mental state. (Although a person’s introspection is still unreliable, a person interpreting another person’s introspection adds another layer of unreliability.) If a white person believes that he has obvious and direct access to the mind of a non-white person, he is under the assumption that he is objective, omniscient, and completely free of any cognitive biases that human beings have.

How anthropologists studied the cultures of others

The fields of cultural anthropology and social anthropology study human culture and human society, respectively. Socio-cultural anthropology has a history of racism, as it originated from European colonialism and the colonial project of managing and pacifying non-white societies (usually colonies or potential colonies).

In early socio-cultural anthropology, white intellectuals made generalizations about non-white cultures and societies using what is now referred to as “armchair anthropology”. Basically, these white people sat around in armchairs—literally or figuratively—and theorized about non-white people based on the personal anecdotes and travel diaries of white explorers, white traders, white Christian missionaries, and white colonial officials. The white intellectuals who “studied” non-white cultures and societies never visited the places or met the people that they studied, relying on the ostensibly “objective” reports of the white observers who did. When social anthropologist James George Frazer was asked if he had met any of the non-white people he had studied, he replied, “God forbid!”

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